Interpersonal Skills (Definition) are the qualities and abilities to work effectively with others. In the business world, when we talk about interpersonal skills, most often, we are referring to “soft skills” such as communication skills, the ability to work with others, and conflict resolution skills. When we teach our High Impact Leaders course or our Creating a Team Culture team building activity, step one in building a team culture is to improve the interpersonal skills between and among the team members.
Interpersonal Skills List
Keep in mind that the term “interpersonal skills” can cover a lot of territory. To show the different types of “soft skills”, we have broken these skills into different categories. Interpersonal Skills is just a single category of soft skill. The other categories are Leadership Skills, Management Skills, and Supervisory Skills. If you look at job placement websites or resume websites, they will sometimes lump all of these different types of soft skills together. There is nothing wrong with doing this, but it can just become very confusing. So, if you look at our list of interpersonal skills below and something is missing, try one of the other soft-skills list.
Emotional Intelligence has become a kind of “buzzword” in the business world. (Personally, I believe that people create words and terms like this to show colleagues how smart they are, but I digress.) Basically, this term is used to describe how well a person expresses and controls his/her emotions when dealing with others. So, in effect, this term really encompasses all of the other interpersonal skills.
I have included the term in the list, though, because you will likely come across the term when others are discussing interpersonal skills.
In addition to Emotional Intelligence, a common all-encompassing term for interpersonal skills is “people skills.” This just means the skills that we use when we deal effectively with others. So, if you look at the list of skills below, each of these could be characterized as a people skill.
One of the most important interpersonal skills is the ability to communicate effectively with others. This skill covers a lot of ground as well, though. In some cases, when we describe communication skills, we are referring to the ability to speak confidently in one-on-one situations. In others, we might be referring to presentation skills. Still, in other situations, communication skills might refer to the ability to listen to others and get coworkers to open up.
Responsibility is the ability to accountable for your actions. In addition, the term also refers to the ability to act independently and make decisions without having to ask for authorization. At work, this term often refers to people who, when taking on a role or job function, make sure that the job is completed to the highest standard of completion.
Assertiveness is the interpersonal skill that allows a person to speak up and communicate with authority. We all have those situations where we have the ability to do something or say something and then we hesitate. Later we will kick ourselves saying, “I should have said something” or “I should have done something!” The more self-confident a person is the more likely he or she will have fewer of these instances.
Out of all of the interpersonal skills that employers look for and that leaders look for in their team members, dependability is one of the most sought after. Great teamwork depends on a high dependability among team members. One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to have a person on the team who is highly qualified but who lets the team down.
It doesn’t matter how skilled we are at dealing with people, eventually we will get involved in a conflict. So, a person’s ability to respond effectively to conflicts is an important interpersonal skill. When coworkers experience a conflict, human nature is to get angry and respond in kind when another person gets angry at us. However, a person who is angry will rarely think logically. So, people have good conflict resolution skills, they will often reduce emotional tension so that a solution to the conflict is more likely.
Flexibility is the skill that allows a person to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Flexibility has always been and important interpersonal skill. However, as technology improves at a faster and faster rate each year, flexibility has become more important over time. If you really want to be appreciated by your employer or customers, focus on improving your ability to adapt to change.
Empathy is the people skill that allows us to build rapport with and share the feeling of other people. Sadly, in today’s world, many people are pretty self-centered. So, a person who can show empathy and build rapport with coworkers and customers is welcome in any team.
Why Are Interpersonal Skills So Important?
One of the things that we teach our kids is that Knowledge is Power! However, that is only half true. Knowledge is important, but knowledge by itself is pretty worthless. It is not until a person is able to take that knowledge and put it into practice that the knowledge becomes power. When someone graduates from school, we all make the assumption that the person has accumulated knowledge.
So, since we have made that assumption, we will often look for other qualities to judge the person’s competence. I will give a few examples below.
Interpersonal Skills in a Job Interview
I recently started interviewing candidates for website managers for my company. Each of the candidates sent over a resume. We even had them take a competency test. Out of the 100 or so people who applied for the job, fewer than 10 scored either “highly proficient” or “expert” on the test. This made the interview process much easier.
I asked each candidate to schedule an interview. We had five that responded right away. I spend a week interviewing candidates. Based on their expertise, I would be willing to hire any of the five people who interviewed. However, one showed up five minutes late, and during the interview, I had to keep asking him to repeat himself because I couldn’t understand what he was saying. (Dependability and Communication Skills)
Another was very chatty with my assistant, but I had to pull information from him during the interview. (Assertiveness.) One called to schedule an interview but caught my assistant away from her desk and away from my calendar. She asked him to call us later to setup an appointment, but he never did. (Flexibility and Responsibility.)
So my choice was really easy. I just compared the two remaining candidates side-by-side in each of the interpersonal skills areas above. The decision was actually pretty easy. My point is that either consciously or subconsciously, employers are doing the exact same thing that I did when they choose candidates. If you want to be able to demand a higher salary, show the interviewer that you have and use these interpersonal skills.
Interpersonal Skills are Critical When We Make Buying Decisions
I had an unbelievable ordeal this week at my office. I can’t remember the last time that I was so frustrated. My assistant and our video producer were complaining about the internet speeds of our WIFI. So, about 3:30 in the afternoon, I called our internet service provider. I asked if I could upgrade my internet service. The technician told me that to get to the next tier of service, my monthly fee would go up over 80% (almost double). That didn’t seem reasonable, so I said that I would think about it.
Obviously, I went to the internet to look for options. A competitor of my provider was offering a comparable service for about what I was paying now. Interestingly, though, my service provider was advertising a similar price. So, I dialed the number in the ad. I got a different department. The person who answered told me that the advertised price was only for new customers. So, I asked to cancel my service. That was a different department. I was placed on hold.
By this time, it was past 4:30. I had been talking with the company for over an hour. When I was finally connected to the cancellation department, the woman who I spoke with was highly skilled in each of the interpersonal skills that I listed earlier. She was able to lower my fee, double my internet speed, and she scheduled a technician to come by first thing in the morning to make sure that everything worked like she promised.
The point is that the first two representatives who were low-skilled in the interpersonal skill areas made me want to go to a competitor. If I had done that, I likely would have never returned as a customer to the company. The last person, made me feel important to the company. Her interpersonal skills likely saved about $24,000 in revenue for the company.
Interpersonal Skills are Vital to Morale in a Company
Although we will cover Leadership, Managerial Skills and Supervisory Skills in future posts, the basic Interpersonal Skills are critical to morale in the workplace. According to an article on The Balance Careers addressing the top 10 reasons why people quit their jobs, four of the reasons correspond to interpersonal skills.
The number one reason why people quit their jobs is their relationship with their boss. Also in the top 10, though, are relationships with coworkers, the overall company culture, and not being recognized by management. Each of these concepts are rooted in poor interpersonal skills. Team members often reflect the behavior of their leaders. So, if a department or company is experiencing interpersonal conflicts and low morale, it is most often caused by the leadership of the department or company.
Improve Your Skills to Improve Your Success
Remember that when all other things are equal, the people who have a higher level of interpersonal skills will often be happier and more successful. For details about how to become a world-class leader, go to our Leadership Training Course web page. You can also access our weekly Leadership podcast on iTunes by searching for High Impact Leaders.